How to Thrive When You're Working From Home Permanently
If your company is planning for hybrid or fully remote post-pandemic, here's how to make working from home work for you. (Even if you're an extrovert!)
The great working-from-home experiment that the COVID-19 pandemic created seems to have been a success for many companies—a recent Price Waterhouse Cooper survey of employers and employees have found that the vast majority felt it was a success—with many pointing to the fact that they achieved the same or better performance from their employees over this year apart.
While some companies have started to slowly bring their staffers back, others are opting to make remote work permanent for everyone—or at least allow a lot more flexibility for their employees to choose where they work.
That means that you might want to look at what's working with your setup now—and what might need changing if this is going to be an everyday (or even just twice-a-week) way to work. If you'll be continuing to work from home at least part-time for the foreseeable future, here's how to make it easier for you.
Upgrade your workspace
You may have been typing away from your couch, a corner of the kitchen table, or even from your bed, but if you'll be working from home more often, it'll be much better if you set up a more permanent, comfortable spot.
Look at options for making it more ergonomic and comfortable. Make room for a designated workspace—even if it's in a closet—and get a proper office chair so you can be well supported for your workday.
Ask about help with your setup
If you're missing your ergonomic chair or big monitors from the office, let your manager or HR representative know. Some companies have been sending home essential gear or giving their employees a budget to pick out an office chair or other equipment for themselves.
Connect with your colleagues
You might be missing the office gossip or chatter about your favorite binge watch around the water cooler. Fortunately, you may be able to bring some of that back through some strategic socializing.
"If you were someone who liked to join your coworkers for a drink after hours, see if you can continue to make dates with your coworkers who are in your area," says Laura Rhodes-Levin, LMFT, founder of The Missing Peace Center. You might even be able to make an in-person meeting (perhaps over an outdoor lunch) happen on work time.
Decide how you want to socialize
One of the mental health benefits to working from home—especially for introverts—is the ability to control exactly when and where you socialize. (No more forced small talk with your cubemate!)
You may even find you have more energy to devote to your social life, now that you don't have to contend with a commute or the hustle and bustle of the office.
Rhodes-Levin suggests taking time to think about what you want in your post-pandemic social life. "If you were happy with your social life before COVID, you might approach your social life in the same way," she says. "On the other hand, if you were someone who couldn’t wait to get home and be alone, this might be a great opportunity to start that social life you never had the energy for when being in the office all day. Being stuck at home all day might be just the recipe needed to organize more of a social calendar for yourself."
Deal with your social anxiety
Many people who have been in quarantine are a little rusty on social skills—and may be feeling anxious going back to regular in-person social interaction, even if they're already vaccinated.
"Socialization is very much like a muscle," Rhodes-Levin says. "If it is not used on a regular basis, it begins to atrophy. The good news is, we just need some warming up and some practice to get back to where we were socially." Take baby steps to get your social habits back—start with a short coffee or a walk outside with a friend, and build up to small, socially distanced or vaccinated-people-only get-togethers.
Keep harnessing technology
Zoom fatigue may be real, but there will still be a place for getting together over screens instead of in person—especially with many experts expecting that business travel may be permanently impacted by the pandemic.
Carve out some balance
With no commute or other distinct line separating work life from home life, people who work from home have been tending toward longer work hours.
So if this is going to be a more permanent situation, you'll want to avoid that work time creep. "The hardest thing about working from home is being a good boss to yourself," Rhodes-Levin says. "Many who work from home beat themselves up for any time away from work. Cut it out! Enjoy each cup of coffee. Take walks to clear your head and assign yourself mental health days. Do not fear not getting your work done. Many studies have shown that people tend to get more work done from home than in the office."